In Praise of Other

For the past two decades, there has been a disturbing trend among the electorate. Fewer people are getting out to vote.

One of the more wearing things that I ever did was act as an enumerator for the 1995 Ontario election. I was given a ten block section of Kitchener, paired up with a partner, and asked to go door-to-door confirming people’s addresses and their place on the voting list.

Most people I spoke to were polite, even happy to see us, but one or two individuals thought that we were representatives of the government. We were shouted at by some individuals. One person in particular expressed her disdain for politicians of every stripe, refused to vote, and refused to allow us to talk to her roommates to ensure that they were on the voting list, at least.

These days, I sympathize with this sort of cynicism. Federally, the Liberal party is corrupt and the Conservatives and the NDP are out of step with the electorate. It is a frustrating situation. So many have decided not to vote. In 2004, despite an election that was anybody’s to win, we had the lowest turnout since 1898.

I cannot help but think, though, that the people who turn away from the ballot box are a part of the problem with the politics of this country. It may be a design flaw that the option “None of the Above” does not exist on our ballots, but by refusing to vote those voters are implicitly accepting the option of “Any of the Above.” Our election results count only those unspoiled ballots that have been placed in the ballot boxes, and the parties that win have every permission under our constitution to govern our lives. Turning away from voting doesn’t stop that.

Maybe we should campaign to redesign the ballot to give us a “None of the Above” option, and have that option have real consequences in an election. In the meantime, if you feel that the mainstream parties aren’t serving your needs, rather than turn away from the ballot box you should instead place your support behind a candidate that does speak to your needs. You should vote for one of the smaller parties, like the Greens. The Greens don’t suit you? Try the Libertarians, or Christian Heritage. Or vote for an independent candidate. But vote.

If half of the people who didn’t vote in the last election showed up to vote for somebody other than the mainstream parties, it would be like an earthquake hit Ottawa. It would alter the face of parliament.

I can’t guarantee that this would result in better government. The smaller parties and the independents have no idea of the complexities of governing and the result might be chaos.

On the other hand, such a shock to the mainstream parties would be good for our democracy in the long term, as it would tell them that they cannot ignore the 40% of Canadians who choose not to vote. It would tell them that they do not have our implicit permission to govern. It would tell them that the electorate is more volitile and angry than they realized, and it would make them more sensitive to the needs of average Canadians instead of partisan Canadians.

Don’t underestimate the power of your vote. Sick of the mainstream parties screwing you? Screw them.

But you have to show up in order to do that.

Campaign Chant for Other Campaign

Vote for someone else!
Vote for someone else!

Further Reading

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